Berkeley County Historical Society

Berkeley County Historical Society Preserving the history of Berkeley County, WV. The Berkeley County Historical Society began in the late 1920’s. Citizens, interested in preserving the diverse history of the county joined to do their best to keep their families, friends and neighbors mindful of where they all came from and how the area came to have such a rich and diverse background.

When the Great Depression struck, through the hardships of World War II, the society fell inactive. The cause was taken up again in the 1950’s being organized into a formal Society in 1963. The Society has met regularly since that time.

Operating as usual

NEW EXHIBITS AT THE BERKELEY COUNTY MUSEUM IN THE BELLE BOYD HOUSE.Many thanks to Dave Bender for setting up a display o...


Many thanks to Dave Bender for setting up a display of political buttons and memorabilia including items pertaining to West Virginia.

The volunteers at BCHS have been very productive during this summer's shutdown. We have 3 new exhibits: a Civil War in Berkeley County display, Berkeley County schools, and an updated Black History Room.

The museum is open 7 days a week courtesy of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 126 East Race St. M-F 9 to 5.
Sat & Sun 9-4.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad employees were bitter.  Their wages had been reduced and the greed and selfishness of manage...

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad employees were bitter. Their wages had been reduced and the greed and selfishness of management was suspected to have been the cause. The suspicion was not entirely groundless.
The B&O annual report showed no unusually high profits, but President John W. Garrett congratulated directors on the volume of business they had conducted. Baltimore newspapers again reported a wage reduction for employees of all of the east coast railroads. It was called “necessary to save jobs.”
In July of 1877 a third wage reduction put employees at the starvation point. They resisted. On July 16th 1877, B&O workers at Martinsburg began what would become known as the “Great Strike of 1877.” Employees had gathered at Martinsburg and refused to go any further. Trains were run upon sidings and stopped, creating a very large backup, and it was all done very quietly.
Martinsburg was an important B&O hub, and the backup caused panic in Baltimore. Strikers wanted to return to work with their pay restored. Martinsburg Mayor A.B. Shutt ordered police to begin making arrests. For the small police force, this was an impossible task.
West Virginia governor Henry W. Matthews ordered Col. C.J. Faulkner to assemble the militia to protect those who were willing to proceed with their trains. The militia, greatly outnumbered, was fired upon. Most of them were railroad men themselves. They did not respond to orders to fire.
A militia man was fired upon and wounded in the head. When he returned fire, the striker was wounded in the hip, arm and hand. A large crowd of railroaders and local citizens had gathered. The militia was dismissed, and the governor sent the Wheeling Militia. They accomplished little, and eventually President Rutherford B. Hayes sent the U.S. Army.
This initially small act of defiance started a domino effect that spread nationwide. Textile workers, canal men, coal miners, and many others joined in. It lasted only a few weeks, and did little to help laborers in their efforts for better pay and working conditions, but it launched the first nationwide labor strike in U.S. History, and it all began in Martinsburg.

CURATOR'S CORNERGentleman’s Morning/Dressing Gown 1865-1880Donated by Charles E. McLurkin in 1999 and worn by the family...


Gentleman’s Morning/Dressing Gown 1865-1880
Donated by Charles E. McLurkin in 1999 and worn by the family of Thomas Newton Lemen.

This dressing gown is made of cotton fabric with a contrasting lining creating a thick substantial garment to provide warmth. The gown closes with one fabric covered button and a hook-and-eye. There is a patch pocket on the left breast. There is no belt. The body of the gown has been dyed with copper-toned madder dye, quite common during this period. The dye was made from the root of the Madder tree (Rubia 'nctorum). The contrasting fabric on the outside of the gown, color and lining are probably died with Madder browns and tan. Madder printed fabrics during this period would have stripes, paisley, plaids, and checks. Images show views of the dressing gown’s exterior and interior. The gentleman’s dressing gown during the 19th century was worn during the morning toilette as well as in the evening over clothing while relaxing.

Thomas Newton Lemen and his family:
Thomas Newton Lemen (1803-1863) married Margaret Billmyer (1807-1869) on April 7, 1827. They had 6 children: Henry Clay (1830-1849), William Martin (1831-1903), Margaret Ann (1837-1857), John N. (1840-1840), Joseph N. (1842-1867), Sarah Elizabeth (m. Joseph Bosler) (1843-1915). Thomas purchased the Joshua and Jesse Hedges house known as “Fort Hill” in 1837. The fort, built in 1748, had been added onto by Jesse Hedges. Lemen remodeled the fort wing around 1840. He was killed on this farm on July 16, 1863 by Confederate stragglers from the Battle of Gettysburg because he refused to provide corn for their horses. Lemen was shot in front of the corn crib and is buried on the property with his wife and other members of his family.

Thomas and Margaret’s son, William Martin, was a doctor in the Hedgesville area (North Mountain Depot). He mustered in as a private in the First Confederate Cavalry, Co. B. His military record shows that he worked in the Medical Department. The house remained in the Lemen family through William Martin’s daughter Margaret, and his sister, Sarah E. Bosler, until 1945. It was sold to Dr. T. K. Oates by Eliza B. (William Martin’s granddaughter) and Charles McLurkin.

In 1837, the sleepy little town of Martinsburg had its curiosity aroused when thirty-seven tents appeared in a field to ...

In 1837, the sleepy little town of Martinsburg had its curiosity aroused when thirty-seven tents appeared in a field to the east of town. A surveying crew for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had arrived to survey a potential route from Harpers Ferry to Cumberland, MD that would pass through Martinsburg and Berkeley County, then across the Potomac and to the west.
Virginia State Senator Charles James Faulkner, of Martinsburg, suggested to the state assembly that they should allocate funds to make the B&O’s decision to choose the Martinsburg route easier. They agreed.
The B&O began construction the following Spring. The Martinsburg Gazette said, “Martinsburg may throw aside the torpor and lethargy of the last half century, and look to a better and brighter destiny.” The town would never be the same.
Construction of the railroad continued through the next few years, and on May 30, 1842, officials of the B&O and their guests took an excursion on the new railroad. A large crowd of people gathered to greet the train in Martinsburg. It proceeded to Hancock, MD, returned to Martinsburg, and the following morning returned to Baltimore. The Baltimore American said of Martinsburg’s reception of railroad officials, “What else could be expected from old Berkeley, one of the most sterling and whole-souled counties in Virginia.”
A few weeks later, the Gazette proclaimed, “So recently have we been put upon the great central route of travel and transportation, that it is difficult to realize our close connections with Baltimore and the west … Our quiet, half-forgotten village will, now, be somewhat known to the traveler.”
The impact of the railroad on Martinsburg was immeasurable. Societies became interconnected as they had never been before due to decreased travel time between them. Distant locations were not so distant any more. People were on the move, as they could now easily move from one place to another.
Economically, available markets for goods expanded. A wider variety of goods could move over much further distances, and in shorter amounts of time. Sellers had new markets in which to sell and buyers on the frontier could now acquire goods that were previously out of their reach.
How different Martinsburg and Berkeley County might be today, had the railroad not passed through it.



The historical society is looking for volunteers:

1. People with Information Technology (IT) experience to help with the Website and troubleshooting computer issues.
2. Person experienced with Excel spreadsheets to help with exporting data into PastPerfect Museum Software.
3. Gardeners interested in helping to maintain the society's gardens.

Please contact the BCHS at 304-267-4713 or email [email protected].

CURATOR'S CORNERToday’s object is a working sales model of an Auburn Wagon Works wagon.  The wagon bed is about 12 inche...


Today’s object is a working sales model of an Auburn Wagon Works wagon. The wagon bed is about 12 inches long. This is one of three models kindly donated to BCHS by the Westphal Hose Company No. 5, Inc. in 2018. Auburn catalogs in the collection did not provide any information on the type and date of this model. If anyone has information on this please let us know so it can be added to the record.
Pictured are a variety of views of the wagon, pictures of the factory and an ad.


Auburn was a major wagon maker by the turn of the 20th century. It was a well-known farm equipment and carriage company that originated in 1882 in Auburn, New York. A plant was opened in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, in 1893 employing 150 men in a rented space. When Martinsburg, West Virginia, offered a better facility, Auburn Wagon Works moved from Greencastle in 1896 and set up in Martinsburg at West Race and Charles streets. This location offered the advantage of being in West Virginia’s hardwood timber belt, “where the finest wagon timber in the world grows.” The company was incorporated in West Virginia on March 27, 1897. It employed almost 100 skilled workmen at good wages. The company shipped its wagons internationally. During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic the company was released from its contracts so that the employees could make coffins for the victims. Auburn was no longer in operation in Martinsburg by 1927 according to a notation on the 1931 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. The complex was still intact by 1930 when agents raided it looking for illegal moonshine.

Two of the managers of the Auburn Wagon Works in Martinsburg, were Max Robinson and Russell A. Bradford. Robinson moved to Martinsburg from Savannah, GA, having managed the Savannah Carriage & Wagon Co. for a number of years. He moved to Martinsburg to help the Auburn company out of financial difficulties. When Robinson died January 31, 1915, Russell A. Bradford took over as manager assisted by Joseph Wyndham.

On February 26, 1889, Congressman William Henry Sowden of Pennsylvania reported favorably on a Senate bill to erect a pu...

On February 26, 1889, Congressman William Henry Sowden of Pennsylvania reported favorably on a Senate bill to erect a public building in Martinsburg and appropriating $75,000 for its construction. The four-story brick building was constructed between 1892 and 1895. The architect who designed it may have been Willoughby Edbrooke, who also designed the Georgia State Capitol and the main administration building at the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana.
Originally built as a United States Court House and Post Office, it served in this capacity from 1895 until 1961. It then became a storage facility for the Federal Aviation Administration and General Services Administration until the late 1990s. In 2001 it became the Arts Centre until that organization vacated it. The historic building is slated for public sale in September, 2020.
The building, as constructed, included such features as a revolving glass door, glass elevator, a winding marble staircase and marble, maple and granite floors. There were courtrooms on the second and third floors, complete with judge’s chambers with fireplaces. However, during its construction, internal plumbing was questioned because Martinsburg did not have a public sewer system at that time.
In 1979, Senator Robert C. Byrd was instrumental in bringing the Federal Government into the building through the General Services Administration. Because it was deemed expendable due to the fact that, as government surplus, it could not be rented out because it did not meet required specification. The restrictions upon it required that the space be used for “art education purposes and endeavors.”
The Boarman Arts Center finalized a deal to obtain the building at nearly no cost under a “discount conveyance” in 2001. In 2003, it was determined that about $6 million was required to transform the building into a major arts education programming center. Unfortunately, these funds would never become a reality.
In 2017, brick began falling from above a third-floor window on the exterior of the building, resulting in its being condemned. Damage also occurred to the building after heavy snowfall in 2016, storms in 2012 and 2014 and an earthquake, centered in Virginia in 2011. Bidding begins at 8 a.m. on September 2, 2020 and the minimum bid is $150,000.



MAGIC LANTERN – Late 19th century

The magic lantern was invented in the 1600s, and is basically a slide projector. Initially illuminated by candles, by the 18th century these lanterns were lit by oil lamps, although this source of light was very weak. Lantern shows became a form of entertainment and education throughout Europe. By the 1850s two more sources of light were developed. “Limelight” was created by heating a piece of limestone in burning gas until it became incandescent. This source of illumination was very effective, and able to produce a light strong enough to project an image before thousands of people. Unfortunately, this method was very dangerous. The other method, kerosene was not nearly as bright, but safe enough even children could use it, allowing the use of magic lanterns to spread to churches, schools and the use of toy lanterns specifically designed for children. Several hundred companies tried their hand at magic lantern making resulting in many different models. The most expensive lanterns were three-lens lanterns called “triunials,” and two-lens lanterns called “biunials.” The most inexpensive ones were single lens lanterns.

This lantern in a simple single lens kerosene lantern about 5 ½ inches by 4 ½ inches. The chimney on top is about 3 inches tall. One of the sides of the lantern would open up and a kerosene lamp would be placed inside. The slide would then be fed through the opening attached to the lens and be projected onto a surface, such as a wall by the light given off from the kerosene lamp.
----By Susannah Bennett, BCHS 2020 Summer Intern

Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern

Thomas Cherrino, an Italian immigrant, worked for a mining company in Canada.  He was extremely intelligent and was able...

Thomas Cherrino, an Italian immigrant, worked for a mining company in Canada. He was extremely intelligent and was able to draw and write down the complete operation of that Canadian mining plant from memory.
He changed his name to Thomas Cherry, and came to America. He met a businessman named Newton D. Baker and persuaded him to open a mining company in Big Spring, West Virginia. Big Spring was just south of Martinsburg, roughly where the Dollar General is today.
Cherry assured Baker that there were plenty of able-bodied young men in Italy who would come to work in those mines. Baker agreed to Cherry’s proposal.
Cherry recruited thirteen men to come to America and Baker paid all the transportation costs and built a house for each man and his family, where they lived free of charge in exchange for working for the Standard Lime and Stone Company (now known as Argos).
Baker encouraged the single men to find wives and settle down. He even built a grammar school for the children of the village. The Italian community of Martinsburg and the surrounding area, including Big Spring, had their own newspaper and there was an Italian-American Club in Martinsburg.
The families who lived in Big Spring in its prime were the Chirelli, Saladini, Bigiarelli, Angelo, Piccolomini, Petrucci, Trenta, Orsini, Qualini, Rossi, De Stefano and Smith families. Oh yes, the Smiths, they were Irish. Three of the fourteen houses were inhabited by Saladini families – if you were counting. At its peak, the population of Big Spring was eighty-eight people. These families, through subsequent generations, made significant contributions to the prosperity of Berkeley County on many levels, and are among the immigrants who built this country.

CURATOR'S CORNERBerkeley Count Historical Society has an excellent collection of Kilbourn Knitting Mill/Interwoven Mills...


Berkeley Count Historical Society has an excellent collection of Kilbourn Knitting Mill/Interwoven Mills objects and images. Today’s post features signs from the First Aid Room and Infirmary at the Mill. Pictured are three metal rectangular signs for “First Aid Room,” “First Aid Equipment,” and “Hospital Stretcher Here.” In addition, there is a green cross-shaped “First Aid Room” sign hanging from an iron bracket which must have originally hung outside of the First Aid Room. Be sure to see more images and items on display in the Medical Exhibit at the Museum at the Belle Boyd House, 126 East Race Street.

History of the Mill from earlier Facebook Post from October 14, 2017:

In 1890 - 1891, entrepreneurs from Philadelphia and New Brunswick, NJ invested money to build the country's first electric powered textile mill. Originally known as Middlesex Knitting Company, it became Kilbourn Knitting Mill after relocation of that mill from New Jersey after a fire. The company eventually became Interwoven Hosiery. It was the largest employer in Martinsburg for several decades.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Interwoven had outgrown its original building. By 1907, Interwoven had 2000 domestic accounts including some of the largest American retailers. Products were also sold door-to-door and shipped overseas. Branch plants had been opened in Hagerstown, MD and Chambersburg, PA by 1921.

Interwoven continued to thrive until the stock market crash of 1929. During the 1930's and 1940's, the company was confronted by organized labor as its employees participated
in the 1934 nationwide strike by the Textile Workers of America.

At this time, almost eighty percent of Interwoven's employees walked out. The company continued to operate with a skeleton crew. The strike did not resolve all the union's issues and again, in 1941, they walked out.

Interwoven manufactured socks for military personnel during World War II. In the 1950's, Interwoven faced competition both locally and worldwide. Employment dropped from more than 3000 early in the decade, to only 900 by 1960.

The company changed hands in 1962 when Kayser-Roth, Inc., purchased the Martinsburg operation and moved most of it to North Carolina. The Martinsburg complex was closed in February 1976, ending an important chapter of Martinsburg's industrial history.

The mill buildings are stilling standing at King, Porter, John Streets and Norwalk Ave. The Museum at the Belle Boyd House has an industry exhibit including Interwoven Mills, other textile mills and the histories of the various other industries in Berkeley County.


126 E Race St
Martinsburg, WV

General information

BCHS Archives and Research Center is open by appointment only (Thursday and Friday). To make an appointment, please give two weeks advance notice. Appointments can be made at 304-267-4713 and by email at [email protected]


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This is a 6 1/2 x 29 photograph from my late husband’s (Brian Keith Leonard 1957-1994) Grandfather. - Herman Whitacre. The date on the back is 6-14-1952. I remember he worked at Rubbermaid, but many years after this. The family were residents of Martinsburg. I’d like to preserve the historical value of this photograph, if possible. Any information, please share.
STILL LOOKING … CAN ANYONE ADD TO THIS? Have a few questions and hope you can lead to to some people who could help or lead me to old files that could give me some answers about the present day Inwood Primary School in Inwood WV. Do you know what the original mascot and colors were for the school when it opened as Inwood School? What year did the present school open and when did the old Inwood school close? Any idea of where I could find who the teachers were? The principal? Students? I would greatly appreciate some leads and then I can do the foot work. I am working on a genealogy project that I intend to share with the Inwood school when finished. Thanks in advance! I went to Inwood way back in the 50's! Sincerely Rebekah Hutzler Malatt Janet Kawalek Secretary Inwood Primary School 7864 Winchester Avenue, Inwood, WV Hi Janet, I've been asked for contact info on the history of Inwood Primary by a friend from church. She's working on a project & would like to present that info to the school when she's done. She attended Inwood Primary in the 1950's. Do you have a PTA or PTO - would you have president's name & tele no? We'll try to stay out of your hair because the close of school is soooo close. thanks, shorty Linda C Watring Subject: Re: Inwood Primary School History (in your spare time) During our last PTO meeting I asked does anyone know the original mascot and school colors. According to a report from the 1970s, the original school was built in 1926. At some point we believe the school colors to be red and blue and they were the pioneers. Would there be any archives at the board? Ryan Ott Principal Inwood Primary School.
Does anyone know who owns "Edgewood" where Confederate General J. Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863) died in an upstairs bedroom after having been shot at Falling Waters during the retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg. Also are there any plans for restoration of either the wrecked monument or the house?
A segment from the handwritten "Juneteenth" order issued by Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger telling people held in bondage in Texas that they were free. This handwritten order, dated June 19, 1865, was located in a formal U.S. Army order book and is thought to be the first version of the famous proclamation. It was located Thursday June 18, 2020 at the National Archives headquarters building in Washington.
I don't mean to be upsetting, or controversial by asking this, but wasn't there an African American guy named Joe Burns who was lynched back in the mid - 1800's? It said there was in that hardcover Berkeley County History book that was released years ago. I was just curious as to what happened for such an awful thing to happen.
Hey everyone! Just curious if you may have any old photos showing Leporini's Shoe Shop in Martinsburg, by chance. Thanks, Kindly!
Is there a map that overlays the original Morgan Morgan 1,000 acre land grant onto a current map? I would like to see if my home (in Southside Subdivision on Charming Lane - off of Torytown Road) was part of the original land grant.
I have a marriage record 3b112 of a James Shane and a Catherine Snode (I believe it should be Shrode) from April 15, 1809. Where would I find the actual document?
Folks, what is the proper way to refer to a person from Berkeley county? Berkeleyian, Berkeleyite, etc?
The brst recognition ever
I'll be a top fan forever if yall let me, great honor.
It's great to be honored by a terrific historical society